Anticipatory account of the demise of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's struggling dictator, and the quake potentials building in the regional political, religious and ethnic fault lines that run through his country.
Lesch (Middle East History/Trinity Univ.; The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History, 2007, etc.) first met with Assad in 2004 and has come to know key figures in Syria's political leadership directly. Assad was not groomed for the position of president—his assassinated brother-in-law was the choice for the top spot—but hopes were high for reform when he took over in 2000. Lesch goes through the process by which Assad became the dictator of the Syrian military state, and Assad’s career provides the frame for the author's account as he discusses the way power is wielded in Syria, the religious and ethnic composition of the country's population, and how Assad and his country responded to the Arab Spring. The author provides a timeline and geographic discussion of the ongoing revolt since its beginning and an analysis of the many international interests that have a stake in the conflict. He shows that Assad, like his father, rules over an alliance of minorities. The revolt and its suppression have unleashed historical demons of the sort that came to the surface with the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Because of divisions between external and internal factions and fears of the consequences of domination by the Saudi-backed Salafists, Assad, Lesch argues, has succeeded so far in suppressing the uprising. However, in the meantime, Syria is being transformed into the center of an expanding region-wide religious and ethnic conflict.
Personal knowledge and on-the-ground experience inform this behind-the-headlines chronicle of the Syrian conflict.